Africa’s road to BAPA +40 South-South Cooperation in an evolving international development landscape

South-South cooperation (SSC) has played an ever-increasing role in overcoming regional and global developmental challenges. The adoption of Agenda 2030 by the global community in 2015 added another dimension to the role of SSC in development.

Goal 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recognises the complementary role that SSC plays in relation to North-South Cooperation and emphasises the value of trade, technology and capacity building to obtain these goals. SSC also plays an important role in achieving Africa’s ambitious Agenda 2063.

Argentina will host the Second United Nations (UN) Conference on South-South Cooperation in 2019, otherwise known as BAPA +40. The conference marks the 40th anniversary of the ground-breaking UN Conference on Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries that was held in 1978 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The outcomes of this conference, known as the Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Promoting and Implementing Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (BAPA), provided a roadmap for these countries to promote cooperation amongst themselves. The BAPA +40 conference presents an opportunity for reflection and review of SSC since then and consideration of its roles and functions in the evolving global development landscape of the 21st century.

The UN Development Cooperation Forum (UNDCF) has identified five areas that require further work in the lead-up to BAPA +40: (i) adjusting to the new context and global sustainable development frameworks; (ii) knowledge management and knowledge sharing; (iii) institutionalisation; (iv) capacity development, and (v) systematisation of data and information.

Through the South-South Global Thinkers initiative, a Global Coalition of Think Tanks Networks for South-South Cooperation, the UN Office of SSC (UNOSSC) has highlighted several areas that require further research in the lead-up to BAPA +40. These are as follows:

  • SSC concepts, trends, evaluation frameworks and impact assessment;
  • Policy coordination and legal environment for SSC;
  • SSC in economic structural transformation;
  • SSC in science, technology and innovations;
  • South-South Trade, Investment and Financing;
  • SSC delivering results for the SDGs;
  • SSC in basic infrastructure and connectivity;
  • SSC risk management in fragile context and disaster risk management;
  • Regional/sub-regional mechanisms and neighbourhood SSC initiatives; and
  • Multi-stakeholder engagement in SSC (youth, women groups, private sector, civil society, etc).

Against this backdrop, the Africa chapter of the Network of Southern Think Tanks (NeST) has been working since 2015 to systematise information and knowledge on SSC. An initial meeting was held on 4 April 2018 to raise awareness and brainstorm on the way forward for BAPA+40. Building on this recent work, NeST Africa is organising a workshop to bring African stakeholders together to exchange experiences on SSC, both nationally and regionally, on the key priority areas that civil society identify as important for feeding into the discussion on BAPA +40.

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